Dinesh Saparamadu – Chairman, hSenid International Pvt Ltd
The global pandemic has created havoc with businesses globally, with lockdowns and social distancing measures making it difficult for employees and employers to operate in a ‘business as usual’ manner. But herein lies the opportunity to reset the world of work now that many companies have mastered the art of having their employees work from home. Going ahead, organizations have a rare chance to recalibrate their culture to adopt more flexible working arrangements. Many CEOs in Sri Lanka claim that even post the pandemic they would consider having a percentage of staff work from home to optimize resources via hybrid working models.
Many employees are as productive from home as they would be in office and if their employers can ensure regular check-ins to provide feedback, social interaction and emotional support, it could be a game-changer by lowering overheads for companies. Making this paradigm shift is easier in agile and flexible organizational cultures where change has been a constant. The task ahead for Human Resource departments is enormous - as it has to play an integral role in re-organizing employee skills and flexible work rules to deliver the corporate vision while also offering better work-life balance, an area which is usually lacking.
Also, learning and development is rapidly becoming an integral part of the HR agenda, with a prime focus on ensuring organizations are ready for life post-COVID-19. HR should consider upskilling their current workforce with transferable and unique skills that give them a competitive edge and make them more resilient to change. These skills give employees the ability to be redeployed elsewhere while maintaining current levels of utilisation. In turn, this also diminishes the need for organizations to take abrupt and unnecessary measures such as forced leaves, layoffs, and salary cuts.
In order to make this shift, HR teams need to leverage more strongly on workforce analytics to track employee experience, engagement and satisfaction, whilst also monitoring and measuring employee performance regularly. While the data will provide an insight into deliverables, it will also reveal skill gaps that may arise.
COVID-19 has accelerated the digital transformation of organizations around the world, with employees being forced to work remotely and resort to different technologies to deliver their work. Organizations will have to invest in digital platforms that facilitate the necessary skills training online. HR bosses must consider implementing effective programmes to ensure employees are equipped with the necessary digital skills and tools needed to succeed in today’s workforce.
While e-learning culture is becoming an integral part of many organisations’ learning and development agendas, according to PwC’s Hopes and Fears Survey in the GCC, only 23 percent of workers are learning new skills through their employer to better understand or use technology. HR must consider implementing effective programmes to ensure employees are equipped with the necessary digital skills and tools needed to succeed in today’s workforce.
Remote working has also paved the way for renewed talent recruitment and sourcing systems that reimagine the entire recruitment process from planning and talent sourcing to assessing, selecting, hiring, and onboarding in a virtual environment. At the same time, keeping remote employees engaged with the corporate culture will be key to talent retention. Attractive reward schemes can fill in for perhaps the lack of salary hikes due to depressed market conditions. Linking employee performance and productivity will be a good yardstick to ensure that employees working remotely meet their key performance indicators.
The conventional wisdom that offices were critical is under doubt as employees have quickly adopted to digital tools to do the same level of work – but from remote locations, without the need for tiring lengthy commutes, effectively doing away with the need for expensive office spaces.
According to McKinsey research, 80 percent of people questioned report that they enjoy working from home. About 41 percent say that they are more productive than they had been before and 28 percent that they are as productive. The new normal requires organizations to consider their cultures, nature of their businesses and their goals to decide how they plan to reset their workplaces.